The number of sidelined workers in Florida keeps dwindling as the Sunshine State’s jobless rate fell again to 7.5 percent in March.
New figures released Friday by the state Department of Economic Opportunity show Florida’s unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage points last month from its adjusted February rate of 7.8 percent.
About 706,000 Floridians are considered unemployed out of a labor force of 9.4 million.
Where Florida used to trail the nationally jobless rate, the state is now outperforming the country overall, which has 7.6 percent unemployment.
The Tampa Bay area’s unemployment rate fell to 6.9 percent last month from 7.5 percent in February. However, regional unemployment figures are not adjusted for the ups and downs of the seasons and can swing wildly from month to month.
Gov. Rick Scott, who campaigned on a pledge to create 700,000 jobs in seven years, took advantage of the improved numbers in a speech Friday in Naples. The governor spoke at a Naples wire manufacturer called Pelican Wire Co..
“These numbers prove that IT’S WORKING in Florida and our families have opportunities to live their version of the American Dream in the Sunshine State,” he said in a prepared statement. “In Florida, our economy is turning around because we focus every day on creating new jobs for our families.”
Florida’s unemployment rate a year ago was 8.9 percent.
There is at least one major caveat to the improved outlook. The unemployment figures leave out those people who have stopped looking for work and dropped out of the labor force. The unemployment rate would be considerably higher when including these so-called “discouraged workers.”
In fact, Florida’s labor force actually shrunk by 18,000 in March when compared with February, the Department of Economic Opportunity figures show. A shrinking labor force can make unemployment numbers look artificially better.
However, on a positive note, the number of jobs in Florida still rose despite the shrinking labor force. The number of jobs last month was up by 32,700 over February and up 141,300 over the full year.